Overview of responses
Monitoring and reporting is not an end in itself, but it should trigger appropriate responses to all of the grave violations against children in order to make a real difference in children's lives. The purpose of the MRM, as articulated in the Secretary-General's Report on CAAC in 2005 [PDF], "is to provide for the systematic gathering of objective, specific and reliable information on grave violations committed against children in situations of armed conflict, leading to well-informed, concerted and effective responses to ensure compliance with international and local children and armed conflict protection norms."54 Security Council Resolution 1612 [PDF], additionally, "stressed the responsibility of United Nations peacekeeping missions and United Nations country teams, consistent with their respective mandates, to ensure effective follow-up to Security Council resolutions, ensure a coordinated response to CAAC concerns and to monitor and report to the Secretary-General." This was reiterated in Security Council Resolutions 1882 [PDF] and 1998 [PDF], which further requested "the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures including, where applicable, to bring the monitoring and reporting mechanism to its full capacity, to allow for prompt advocacy and effective response to all violations and abuses committed against children and to ensure that information collected and communicated by the mechanism is accurate, objective, reliable and verifiable."55
Ultimately, the MRM can make a real improvement to the situation of conflict-affected children on the ground.
Objectives of the MRM response:
- addressing the immediate needs of affected children;
- taking action to enhance the protection and situation of children;
- preventing further violations; and
- enhancing the accountability of perpetrators of violations against children.
Responses are required from multiple actors and can take place at the community, national, regional and international levels.
National governments have the primary responsibility for the protection of children and to ensure an adequate response to each of the grave violations against children through a myriad of actions such as supporting humanitarian assistance, legislative and policy reforms and other activities. The CTFMR should establish regular meetings with the Government, to discuss the impact of conflict upon the children and to develop collaborative initiatives for responding to grave violations against children; enhancing accountability of perpetrators and preventing future grave violations. The CTFMR may meet with the government but the responsibility to enhance response lies with the protection cluster and, in particular, the child protection sub-cluster. Therefore, the CTFMR should have a close relationship with the protection cluster and ensure it is briefed on a regular basis on information on grave violations against children.
Figure 7: Responses - provides some examples of implementing programme and advocacy responses, but is not exhaustive.
Not all MRM actors are service providers, but all have a responsibility to ensure that a victim of grave violations is referred appropriately and so receives appropriate service or other support.
Responses for individual victims fall into three main categories;
- Service provision - support for the immediate and long-term needs of the child and/or the family.
Child victims of any form of neglect, exploitation or abuse are entitled to care and non-discriminatory access to basic social services. Health workers, teachers, police, social workers and others who interact with children need to be equipped with the motivation, skills and authority to identify and respond to the grave violations.
Potential responses for this component include:
- Ensure that child survivors have access to appropriate medical services.
- Provision of appropriate psychosocial care for children and their families. This may be through community programmes (see Community-level programmatic response below), but for some children who require specialist individual services, these must be available and support provided for the child to attend.
- Specialist services to support children who have been sexually assaulted.
- A referral mechanism should be developed within the child protection actors to ensure that all children who require a service are referred appropriately for either service provision or to an organization that can support them to pursue this.
- A referral mechanism should be developed to ensure that any child who was previously part of an armed force or armed group receives the services established for children being reintegrated into communities.
- Advocacy - for individual children or groups of children.
At times advocacy for individual is appropriate. See the Advocacy section below for details.
Some children and their families may wish to pursue accountability through legal mechanisms for individual violations committed against them, e.g., filing complaint with the police or other authorities. Accountability is key to the MRM process and protection actors should be in a position to advise children and their families.
It is recommended that a mechanism be established to refer victims to appropriate organizations, in the country, who are supporting children and families to pursue legal action.
Key messages - Individual responses
- Develop a clear and easy-to-understand referral mechanism.
- Referrals for victims can be for a) service provision or b) to an organization that can advise and/or support a family as it pursues legal redress.
- Whatever action is taken for and on behalf of children, consent must be provided to share information and/or act on their behalf.
As noted above, the CTFMR should ensure that the information collected through the MRM is used to improve the design and delivery of programmes, so that they are better targeted and better able to enhance the protection of children and prevent future violations.
Programmes should be in line with international standards and programming guidance, including for example, the Paris Commitments, Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. Further suggested readings are provided in the text box panel.
Suggestions for community-level response activities include:
- Provision of essential services and rehabilitation, including reintegration programmes, psychosocial support, services for survivors of sexual violence, community-based child protection networks, birth registration campaigns, etc.
- Creating awareness of international and national commitments to protect children from violations; and enhancing the capacity of families and communities to protect their children. This can also ensure that community members are aware of reporting and referral mechanisms in case of violations.
- Programmes to improve children's life skills, knowledge and participation.
Further reading - Programme responses
- For further information on a protective environment for children, see: www.unicef.org/protection/index_action_children.html.
- 'A Fighting Chance: Guidelines and implications for programmes involving children associated with armed groups and armed forces' Save the Children.
- Paris Commitments, Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups
- IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
- IASC Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings: Focusing on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence in Emergencies, 2005
- Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings
- 'Child Friendly Justice and Children's Rights', CRIN [PDF]
Advocacy for the purposes of this manual is defined as:
Deliberate efforts, based on demonstrated evidence, international law and humanitarian principles; to persuade decision makers to adopt certain policies or actions in order to protect children's rights in situations of armed conflict.
Advocacy plays a crucial role in responding to all six grave violations monitored and reported on through the MRM; enhancing the accountability of perpetrators, and ultimately contributing to the prevention of further violations against children. Advocacy can be undertaken at the local, national, regional and global levels.
Local level - Advocacy for individual victims
In some situations, it may be appropriate to conduct advocacy on behalf of an individual child or small group of children. For example, where a known armed group is holding recently recruited children in a specific known location, experience has shown that immediate advocacy can deliver results with the children being released.
To conduct advocacy on behalf of specific children requires the informed consent of the parents or the child themselves (if age appropriate and depending on the situation). The risks of advocacy, appropriate to the situation, should be fully explained to the child and/or family. When feasible, it is strongly recommended that signed consent be obtained prior to any action being taken on behalf of individuals.
Local level - Broader advocacy responses
Advocacy at the local or national level may be targeted at changing policies or behaviour, enhancing accountability or aimed at achieving an immediate result in response to a specific grave violation. The CTFMR may also be able to reach out to international-level advocacy to effect policies and actions in the country. This can be done through the Office of the SRSG-CAAC, who can enhance advocacy and raise awareness on specific situations at the international level.
There are many resources available on advocacy strategy (see further reading below); this section confines itself to highlighting key aspects for MRM. Effective advocacy strategies should lead to specific actions, which may, for example, lead to greater humanitarian access or the release of children in armed forces or groups; attract greater political, human and financial support; promote adherence to international laws and standards, such as to enhance the protection of civilians and schools and hospitals under international humanitarian law; and lead to accountability for perpetrators of grave violations against children. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance accountability of perpetrators of violations against children; increase humanitarian response capacity; and prevent further violations.
Advocacy can take place by the MRM Country Task Forces direct with government or other parties to the conflict; additionally, and when appropriate, advocacy at the global and regional levels by advocates such as the SRSG CAAC, UNICEF, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Special Rapporteur on Torture, etc.
At times, a dual approach to advocacy can provide solutions; e.g., with UN senior personnel meeting with the leader of an armed group while other staff meet on a regular basis with known commanders from their field duty station localities on specific localized issues. Ideally, advocacy efforts should reach leaders who are responsible for the chain of command and to give direct orders to their troops to stop grave violations against children. However, according to the shape and dynamics of an armed group, parallel low key advocacy may give faster results (this is very common in trying to get children released from an armed group).
Examples of specific advocacy that MRM Country Task Forces must engage into include:
- Regular updates of the impact of the conflict on children with key stakeholders such as the government, donors, child protection networks, humanitarian community and other actors with influence (such as diasporas) at the national and regional.
- Press releases of the Secretary-General's report on children and armed conflict, providing a synopsis of key findings and recommendations (once the report is officially published). Similarly, once the SCWG's conclusions are publicly issued, awareness campaigns could be conducted, as appropriate.
- In relation to the killing and or maiming of children: press releases raising concern of the incident; advocacy at the global and regional levels by advocates such as the SRSG-CAAC.
- In relation to the recruitment or use of children: community-level prevention of recruitment campaigns with community leaders, families, youth groups, schools, etc; advocacy for national legal reform in conformity with international legal standards, considering children as victims and ensuring their security; direct advocacy with the government and or offending parties to the conflict to advocate for immediate cessation of recruitment of children and release of children in their armed forces and groups.
- In relation to abduction of children: community-level prevention of abduction campaigns with community leaders, families, youth groups, schools, etc.
- In relation to sexual violence of children: use of non- identifying information to conduct specific advocacy on sexual violence to highlight issue but maintain confidentiality. Where appropriate, community leaders or the media may be used to break the silence and to raise awareness on the prevalence of sexual violence.
- In relation to attacks on schools and hospitals: press releases raising concern of the attack; awareness-raising and training of the parties to the conflict's international legal obligations to protect schools and hospitals that may lead to policy or legislative amendments; "Schools as Zones of Peace" campaigns and community partnerships including collaborations with schools.
- In relation to denial of humanitarian access: direct dialogue with the government or other parties to the conflict raising concern of a specific incident or to negotiate and ensure future access, reiterating the parties to the conflict's obligations to enable access and for the government to ensure the rights of children to access certain humanitarian assistance;56 press releases raising concern of the incident and the impact upon the communities, particularly children.
MRM advocacy should be:
- Rights-based, participative where appropriate, and guided by the best interests of the child.
- Evidence-based and guided by international legal instruments, particularly international humanitarian and human rights laws; humanitarian principles and other relevant agreements and commitments such as peace agreements and commitments made by government and non-state armed groups.
- Strategic and linked to programmatic responses: advocacy mechanisms should be part of an integrated approach to problem solving.
- Tailored to the specific context, including the security situation at any given time.
- Addressing any of the six grave violations that may be applicable in the context.
- Based in partnership and cooperation with other actors.
- Multifaceted and diverse, depending on audience, message and priority.
Global and regional levels
At the global and regional levels, MRM Country Task Forces can request the advocacy support of the SRSG CAAC, UNICEF, the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and a number of other key UN, NGO, civil society, donors and global and regional human rights bodies.
The OSRSG-CAAC serves as an independent advocacy office for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict. The Office works with partners to propose ideas and approaches to enhance the protection of children and to promote a more concerted protection response. The Special Representative undertakes humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives to dialogue with parties to conflict for specific commitments to protect children. The MRM Country Task Forces should also seek further guidance and technical support from the MRM Technical Reference Group, led by the OSRSG-CAAC and UNICEF headquarters, to bolster global inter-agency and inter-institutional advocacy support at the global and regional levels.
Key messages for MRM Country Task Force's advocacy strategy:
- Identify the issue and establish the expected outcome.
- Care must be taken and assessed on a case-by-case basis, as to the appropriateness of advocacy, given particular sensitivities of child victims.
- Consider the different levels and advocacy avenues and decide which is the most appropriate given the context and desired outcome.
- Determine the key actors: Who should be targeted by the advocacy efforts and who should bring the advocacy message? A variety of actors, including governments and policymakers, non-state armed groups, additional reporting and accountability mechanisms, international organizations, NGOs and civil society, as well as the public itself could be targeted.
- Adapt the delivery of the message to the intended target.
- Identify the possible adverse effects of engaging in advocacy strategies on staff security, country programmes and vulnerable populations. The humanitarian community should not be silent, but risks do need to be taken into account - advocacy should be discussed with partners and their views taken into account when planning for advocacy.
- Include a plan of action that details the most appropriate channels for action; identifies key responsibilities for realizing that action; and adapts tools to the intended audience.
- Feedback should be provided where possible and as appropriate at different levels – to staff, victims and communities. It is suggested that feedback be provided on accountability, advocacy and on programmatic responses. It is only through providing feedback that staff of participating organisations will continue to be motivated to provide information.
Further reading - Advocacy
- 'Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons' Global Protection Cluster Working Group (includes an excellent section on Advocacy)
- 'Protection' An ALNAP Guide for humanitarian agencies [PDF]
- 'Proactive Presence: Field strategies for civilian protection', Liam Mahoney - Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue [PDF]
54 Report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict, United Nations A/59/695–S/2005/72 [PDF]
55 As per paragraph 8 and 17, Security Council Resolution 1882 [PDF] (2009) and paragraphs 12 and 17, Security Council Resolution 1998 [PDF] (2011).
56 General Assembly Resolution 46/182, which calls for strengthening the coordination of UN humanitarian emergency assistance, is a useful negotiation tool used by the UN to advocate for access.